Amazing Grace: The Spiritual Musical

Letterboxd Review “Sends You on a Spiritual Musical High” 

    Amazing Grace is a gospel hymn that is as iconic as the American national anthem. It is also the title of a live album that Aretha Franklin recorded in Los Angeles, January of 1972. As well as being the best selling album for Franklin, it is the highest selling gospel album of all time. Originally Warner Brothers created a documentary film, directed by Sydney Pollack. It was Constructed as footage of the recording album set to be released in 1972, but it was later shelved. This lost footage is now finished in this documentary from director Alan Elliot and Editor Jeff Buchanan. Pollack is credited as a director for this documentary. 

    At the point depicted in the film, Aretha Franklin was at the height of her career with many top songs and accolades, but was looking to do something different for her next album. The live performance was spaced out over the course of two nights at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Night one is seen more as an intimate performance due to the fact that there wasn’t a big crowd. Pollack was able to capture the set up to the live performance, taking you behind the scenes backstage with the gospel choir group that would back up Aretha. There is no rest as Aretha steps right in and goes for the classic hymns and original soul gospel compositions, only to pause when James Cleveland asks for a water break. As night one closes, Cleveland states that the closing number needs no introduction, leaving Franklin into a soul rising rendition of Amazing Grace. Night Two sees a bigger crowd in the audience including gospel singer Clara Ward, who inspired Aretha, and Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger. Aretha’s father reverend C.L Franklin makes a speech about his daughter being rooted in gospel music. Seeing the bigger audience James Cleveland tells them to let the camera capture their emotions: we see more audience members get up and start dancing to the songs. 


    Amazing Grace is a musical and spiritual power-house of a documentary film. You will leave the theatre on a high not only from the spiritual nature of this film, but as well the soul and gospel music of Aretha Franklin. Her music is a spiritually transcendent experience. You even get to see Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger losing himself in this musical journey. 



4/5 Stars